Some say he’s a menace to society, a villain to our culture and the worst possible role model for our youth that we could have asked for. Others see him as a cultural visionary and a musical genius that saved Dancehall from the mundane, regular path it was heading down. I say he’s everything above and more.
Vybz Kartel is the best thing that has happened to our Dancehall culture since the days of King Yellowman and Supacat. He singlehandedly rebranded our music to capture audiences around the world, and set in motion a legacy that may very well outlive him. But he is also a convicted murderer, a big proponent of male chauvinist views, and a strong advocate for violence against any person or force that sought to contest his order. So like other greats before him, there were serious flaws in his design. He led a life that I believe any budding entrepreneur could learn from, if we were to just look at him objectively. This article is the first to a series of articles that will attempt to look the Vybz Kartel we knew Before, During and After the Gaza and the lessons to be learnt from his rise and fall in Dancehall.
Before the Gaza Empire
1) Learn from the best before you try to be the best: Believe it or not, BountiKilla aka Rodney Pryce had a most profound effect on Vybz Kartel’s rise to stardom; and I think Kartel made the smartest decision in his younger years when he sought mentorship from him by joining the Alliance. The Music business, like any business, comes with it some barriers to entry, the hardest of them all being Respect, Personality and Connections. Kartel did well in being the “loyal son” to the Alliance boss Bountikilla, because it was through this relationship that he was able to get the respect of one of the biggest Dancehall artistes in the industry at the time, and by extension other big dancehall artistes due to Bountikilla’s promotion of his new prodigy to his peers. When Kartel got Bountikilla’s respect, he was also able to get the industry’s attention, which gave him the platform to create his stage personality. For an upcoming artiste like him, he was able to test different attitudes on the industry, using the industry as a focus group, at a much cheaper cost than he would have to incur if he was as established as a Bountikilla.
When you’re a “nobody” in business, you’re able to try and fail again and again, until you get it right; and I think Kartel understood this very well. When he got it right, that’s when the connections started flowing in. That’s when every producer wanted to work with him, every corporate sponsor wanted to use him to push their products and ever promoter wanted him to perform at their shows. Kartel was successful, after many tries, in creating the perfect product to virtually monopolize the Dancehall market
2) Know when to leave and chase your dreams: I am not of the view that Kartel only left the Alliance and started the Gaza Empire solely out of disrespect from Bountikilla, and a need to be independent. I think Kartel had it up his sleeve all along, to learn what he needed from the experience with the Alliance then break away and use this new knowledge to start chasing his real dream, of being his own boss. But the biggest part of this lesson to takeaway, is knowing WHEN to break away. Timing is everything, and in business you need to understand this first before any new venture you choose to undertake. Kartel had to know exactly when was the right time to branch off and start a new. He had to be constantly abreast of the market’s movements and be ready to penetrate the industry when a spot opened.
3) Choose your team carefully. A good thing with being an entrepreneur is that it affords you some level of choice in how you organize your factors of production. One of the biggest differences between a successful entrepreneur and an average entrepreneur is the organization of human resources. You need good, diligent, enthusiastic people to start something from scratch and turn it into an empire, and Kartel understood just that. Kartel understood that to build his Gaza Empire he needed listeners, thinkers and die-hearted Dancehall lovers to carry out his vision for the Gaza. In life, you will need to be just as selective with who you bring into your dream. These people need to be just as hungry, just as motivated and just as willing to jump off a cliff if it’s necessary for the overall mission to reach further.
To be continued..